If this is the antidote, I prefer the poison. (Review)



Economics at best is a soft science. Put fifty economists in a room and you will get fifty different opinions on economic theory, they seldom agree unless the conversation turns to free trade, it’s only then they sing harmoniously the virtues of free trade.


Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization shows us the human face of globalization. He dispels the myth that poor countries attract human rights violators. He presents objective data to support the argument that globalization benefits underdeveloped countries, improves standards of living, minimizes xenophobia, enhances peaceful relations, and advances civilizations toward the common goal of human prosperity


The attributes he extols are the inherent nature of free market capitalism. They are the desirable qualities of capitalistic economies. Mr. Bhagwati dissects the causality of multinational corporate influences on developing countries. He praises multinational corporations that preserve human rights while improving the standard of living in underdeveloped countries.


He addresses a constellation of false accusations from NGO’s, human rights groups, environmental consortiums, and organized labor. The loudest opponents here are special interest groups with covert agendas hiding behind the familiar facade of altruism. He dispels these myths as misdirected nationalism, neo-imperialism, and protectionism. In spite of the opposition an overwhelming theme emerges; globalization enhances the standard of living in underdeveloped countries; capitalism advances civilization in the most constructive means possible: free trade.


It is Mr. Bahgwati’s contention that the problem with globalization is a poor public relations image. Globalization, with all its apparent benefits and moral virtues needs a public relations face lift, so it becomes more socially acceptable to the NGOs and special interest consortiums. He postulates that to perform this make over, globalization needs to come under more international and governmental scrutiny, complete with controls — safety nets if you will — to prevent harmful market forces associated with fluctuating commodity prices and lost market share. He advocates adjustment assistance programs to appease labor unions for trade agreements. He contends these interventions are necessary to reduce the asymmetry between developing countries.


If this is the antidote, I prefer the poison. Anytime a governing body creates economic law or institutes a policy, a new special interest is born. Multinational corporations move to countries of asymmetry to enhance profits, avoid burdensome taxes and the demands of organized labor and special interest groups. There is no reason to move globally if the constraints of government and international bodies are there to shackle production and pray on the profits. The real tragedy here is underdeveloped countries lose opportunities to employ their people and raise their standards of living; unwarranted constraints on multinationals will bar developing countries from the global market place, denying them entry into the world economy.


With all due respect to Mr. Bhagwati, from a literary standpoint I found this book very easy to put down and walk away from. At times it reads like creative non-fiction, but those moments are few. Overall the writing stuck me as academic. I wouldn’t recommend this book to a lay person who hasn’t previously read Milton Friedman and Adam Smith.


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